EXCLUSIVE: Conservative State Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack Not Running For Reelection in 2023; Her Daughter Will Seek To Replace Her

EXCLUSIVE: Conservative State Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack Not Running For Reelection in 2023; Her Daughter Will Seek To Replace Her

By Mark Belling, WISN-AM

Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack, a stalwart member of the Court’s conservative bloc, will not seek reelection to another ten year term on the Court in the spring of 2023.   Her daughter, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Ellen Brostrom, intends to run for the position.

The election could decide ideological control of the Court.   At present there are three clear conservatives on the court and three staunch liberals.   The seventh justice, Brian Hagedorn, inevitably casts the deciding vote on virtually all controversial cases. Hagedorn ran as a conservative but has frequently voted with the liberal bloc.

Given the close ideological divide on the court, expect a remarkably contentious campaign.   The biggest question is where Brostrom would fit in on the Court if she won.

Brostrom’s ideology is hard to pin down.   She has a history of endorsing liberals in major judicial elections and supported Lisa Neiubauer, a liberal, in her successful run for reelection to the state Court of Appeals.   Brostrom also endorsed Rebecca Dallet in her 2017 run for the Supreme Court but withdrew it after Dallet blasted the current Court which was then headed by Roggensack, Brostrom’s mother.  But Brostrom has also donated money to the campaign of Justice Rebecca Bradley, the most conservative member of the court.

It’s probably fair to say that liberals would be wary of Brostrom because she is the daughter of Roggensack.  And conservatives may be wary of Brostrom because of her past support for liberals and the fact that she serves on the bench in Milwaukee County.

It is not a secret that Roggensack would likely not seek reelection.  She is 81 years old.  She was elected to the Supreme Court in 2003 and served on the Court of Appeals for seven years prior to that.   She is the Court’s former Chief Justice and with Rebecca Bradley and current Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, she has been part of a rock solid conservative bloc on the Court.   The court’s three liberals, Dallet, Ann Walsh Bradley and Jill Karofsky are as solidly liberal as the other bloc is conservative.

Hagedorn has bitterly disappointed conservatives with his frequent siding with liberals.   Hagedorn was strongly backed in his campaign for the Court by conservatives especially after Wisconsin liberals attacked him for his conservative Christian beliefs.   Given what happened with Hagedorn, Brostrom will have a hard time convincing conservatives that she is one of them.

Legal observers have long praised Brostrom as one of the best judges in Milwaukee County and she is extremely well-liked.

There is no seat up for election on the Court in 2022.   If any Justice retires in the next year, Democrat Governor Tony Evers gets to name the replacement.   After next year, whichever candidate is elected Governor will fill all vacancies via appointment for the next four years.   Ultimately, all justices have to win election.  With the terms being ten years and with most incumbents winning reelection, battles for open seats like the one coming in 2023 are critical.

Mark Belling

December 20, 2021

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